Travonne Rhoda, 4, from Kraaifontein, Cape Town, has spent almost all of his four years in hospital.
Travonne was only six months old when he developed a bad, persistent cough. Since then, he’s spent most of his life in hospital and was eventually diagnosed in 2018 with bronchiolitis obliterans — an incurable lung disease commonly known as 'popcorn lung'.
The condition causes the smallest airways of the lungs to be obstructed due to chronic inflammation.
It’s possible that the condition was triggered when Travonne suffered pneumonia as a baby.
The damage to his lungs is irreversible, says the little boy’s mom, 35-year-old Simone Rhoda.
Simone spoke to YOU this week in the Melomed Belville Hospital. The little boy – who considers entertainer Emo Adams his bestie and thinks of the hospital as home — is on a ventilator.
“He’s been on the machines since last week after he had another setback. For months he was doing better,” Simone tells us. She adds the nursing staff have become like family to them.
Travonne has had to spend the past two Christmases and New Years in hospital. Last year in June he was discharged, only to be readmitted a day later.
In September he spent a few days at home before his family had to take him back to hospital. He’s been on a ventilator four times since then.
“It takes its toll. It’s especially stressful and hard on me when I’m at work and he’s at home. The longest he’s been home, was a month and a half,” Simone says.
Doctors prefer to have Travonne in hospital where he can get the best possible care. She says she and her husband, Clement, 37, can’t thank the hospital staff enough for everything they’re doing for the family. During the crisis times, she and her husband are there day and night, she adds. “They give us a place to sleep and three meals a day.”
She gets emotional when she talks about how Travonne nearly died on September 29 last year. They were at home when the hospital called to say his organs had started failing. Upon their arrival, the nurses were in a circle around the little boy’s bed, holding hands and praying.
“People’s prayers are the only thing that’s keeping us standing,” Simone says.
To help cover medical costs, various fundraisers have been organised in the past four years, including an annual golf day and the Travonne Rhoda Sevens Rugby Tournament. Last year Emo Adams visited Travonne at the behest of the Reach for a Dream Foundation. “Since then Travonne thinks of Emo as his bestie.”
The little boy is also a huge fan of South African performer Early B. “He loves watching YouTube videos — Early B’s Ben 10 is his favourite.”
When Travonne was discharged in September, he’d asked to go back to hospital. “The hospital is home to him.”
Simone says there’s no cure for her son. “All we’re asking is that people pray for him.”